letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Vibration Pollution Problem in the Sunset


I am writing regarding a vibration pollution problem in the Sunset and Parkside. I suspect the problem is related to either the domestic water supply system or the auxiliary water supply system.  I’ve read Thomas Pendergast’s articles related to the water systems in SF. I wonder if he may be able to help in some way.

I live with my family in Parkside. Every night I wake up to the house vibrating. It causes things to rattle. It almost immediately wakes me up. Shortly after, it wakes up my two small children. It seems to stimulate the nervous system, cause anxiety, difficulty sleeping and a tingling sensation. It feels awful. Our kids wake with racing hearts and shallow breathing. They whimper and toss and turn until the vibrations stop. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. It occurs both during the day and at night. It happens most often in the evenings until about 10:30 p.m. and between 4 and 9 a/m., although some nights it seems to barely stop.

It has a distinct on and off. I bought a vibration data logger to measure it. I am able to record time-series and the frequency profile. It occurs throughout our house, but it is strongest in the garage towards the street. The frequency profile shows harmonics from 50 hz all the way to almost 1800 hz. The max amplitude is between 620 hz and 1,000 hz.

The vibrations have had a huge impact on our well-being. This is actually the third place we have lived in the Sunset/Parkside District in the last five years. We moved trying to escape this problem.

Initially I thought the source must be some sort of equipment in a neighbor’s house. After moving and still experiencing this problem, it seems apparent that the source is something related to utility infrastructure. We have ruled out obvious things like Muni and traffic.

I now believe that this problem is much more than just a horrible nuisance for just my family. We’ve seen how it affects our neighbors at each place we have lived. I think this is a major local public health issue. I really don’t know how this problem has gone unrecognized for so long. Although, I have been aware of the problem for years, and had no idea what it is or what to do about it. It seems to be just beyond most people’s perception, but it still may affect them.

I wonder if the source is related to the domestic water supply system or supplemental water supply system. We have lived toward the bottom of hills, so it may be that the water pressure is high and transmits some sort of mechanical vibrations. Also, I only recently realized each of these three places have been within a few blocks of the AWSS. Our street has cracks leading right up to water meters. The cracks seem to trace out the pipes. It seems plausible that the vibrations are causing damage to the street and sidewalk.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts on the matter, it would be much appreciated. Or maybe you have a contact at the SFPUC? I think the right person there may be able to help, though I am doubtful going through 311 would lead to anything meaningful.

Sorry for the long email and I appreciate your time.

Dale Tutaj

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